tv Thoreaus Walden Pond CSPAN July 30, 2017 10:40pm-10:51pm EDT
>> it's interesting that very often readers of walden, when they first come to the pond are a little puzzled. maybe a little disappointed because when you read walden, you really are expecting to be just amazed at landscape. the fact that sorrow could be every day, just staggered by a landscape as humble as this, that takes a little getting used to. it was little pond and now it's an icon of american history. henry david thorough came out as a little boy. he remembered that earnings kurgs long after but he came
here with his family to gather sand for his father's sandpaper manufacturing enterprise. he came to live here on july 4, 1885 that he came. his friend ralph waldo emerson, had not long before, brought the property we're standing on now. as a -- the soil around walden isn't good for much except growing trees. he asked emerson if he could put up a structure here and stay for a while and he said sure. his principle purpose was to find sort of writer's studio for
himself. it was something he had been thinking about for several years, that -- and the specific project he had in mind was a book for his brother john, who had died in 1841, the book is about a trip that he took with john in 1839. they were both very young, but they took a trip by boat up to new hampshire, and that's loosely the thread that runs through a week on the concord in merrimack, which is the book that he wrote here. >> while here, it's sort of easy to imagine that thoreau was all alone and if you read the book you would think he's like halfway up the slopes of a mountain or something, he was off at the end of the world somewhere, but he's not.
he's connected to town. it's only a little over a mile away. especially if you take the railroad cut there. you're in town in no time. and he had lots and lots of visitors while he was out here. so it's not that he was isolated, but he had plenty of the solitude that he wanted as a thinker and a writer. the house he built, he tells us in the first chapter of walden, was 10 by 15 feet, which is fairly substantial space. it's about the size of most craftsmen workshops in that period. you can get a lot done in 10 by 15 feet and it was tough for thoreau. he not immediately but he soon planted a field of beans and
tried to get by in part on them. but, you know, for the rest of his living it was supplies that he would get from town. rice and things like that. >> thoreau came to walden already with a set of ideas about what -- about what wildness is. not the wilderness, but wildness. that's what interested in. part of the exercise in coming to walden was to remove himself from culture. you know that sounds sort of drastic, but you do catch artists at it every now and again -- went to tahiti, and part of the reason he went there was to put all of europe behind him and this is something that emerson suggested, in a number of places, but he thought it was
important for americans to put that behind them. one good way to do it is to come out and live by yourself in a house with no neighbors at that point. historically, there had been other people living out here but they were for the most part gone when thoreau was out here. not long after thoreau came to walden, that the idea of the book walden started to occur to him and if you look at his journal from that period there are passages clipped from it that were worked into some of the early drafts and the lectures that he gave on the subject. right in the beginning of walden the book, he says, that it was curiosity on the part of his neighbors. they wanted to know if he was lonely. if you know, aren't you afraid out there and so on? so he started answering those
questions at lectures, and it kind of grew from that, but, of course, he changed, you know, it was not just a narrative of my experience. the book is subtitled life in the woods, and thoreau had the publisher get rid of that subtitle eventually. it wasn't just a narrative of what it's like to live out in the woods. it's obviously more complicated book than that. there was walden the experience, which was just two years, but walden, the book, was a much longer project. it actually went through seven different drafts so in the interim, thoreau took up a new methodology of observation around 1851, 1852. he took up a new way of observing the world and a lot of that is reflected in the final draft of walden. so it takes a little -- it takes
some exercise, an intellectual exercise to pick apart those threads and figure out what it is that he's up to while he's actually out here. walden was more successful than a week on the concord in merrimack the deal that thoreau made with his publisher for a week which was the book he came to waldn to write, was that if it didn't sell thoreau would pay for the publication so ended up being responsible for the publication, and -- but walden sold better than that. it only went through one edition during thoreau, but it did sell much better than a week. one of the things thoreau is careful to point out in the text of walden is he doesn't really mean for anybody to imitate his experiment and he talks about it
as an experiment. rather, i think, he wanted his readers to first have the sort of odd response to the remarkable fact of man and nature is the way thoreau put it. if readers take that away that's good enough for him festival they thought about the relationship between what they do to get a living and what their life consists of then i think he would have counted that as success. you can watch this and other programs on the history of communities across the country at cd.c. cpan..org.
***** at c-span.org/cities tour. this is american history tv. only on c-span3. >> up next on american history tv, author and salem state university professor emerson baker provides an in-depth look in the history of salem. he explores how it went from a simple town in massachusetts in 1692 to a city synonymous with witchcraft and tragedy. this hour-long presentation was part of a symposium held in massachusetts. >> good morning, everybody. lovely to see you all today on this day, this reverent way. i am chair of the history department here. i thank you all for coming today. we are all here, obviously, because of rigid ship. the long hot summer and early